#ModBio Workshop Day 9


  1. Group Evolution Model Summary Boards
  2. Homework:
    1. Discuss Exercise 2
    2. Discuss Test
  3. Energy Stations Activity – WB & Discuss
  4. Zoom
  5. A Vital Commodity Activity – WB & Discuss
  6. Exercise 1 – Discuss
  7. What is Food
  8. Energy Organism View

We started the day by collaborating on our group Evolution Model Summary Boards.  Members of both groups commented that the flow of this model was harder to track than previous models.  My guess was because evolution is a more difficult concept to wrap your head around that experimental design or classification.  I personally liked how just about every topic that was brought up could be linked back to the Thirsty Bird Laboratory.  As someone who was not originally sold on the lab, I do see a lot of merit to it, especially if you are following the modeling biology sequence of units.

Next we briefly discussed the exercise and test.  No big revelations in either conversation.  I did find a nice sequence of questions that with a little modification I think I’ll be using this year.  As someone who is not a huge fan of tests, I’ll be working to create some more authentic assessments.

I’ve been waiting to work through the energy stations activity since I read about them last year.  They didn’t disappoint.  It was a series of simple observations about different energy transfers.  At each station we had three questions to answer: summarize the procedure, make observations, and describe the energy storage and transfers.  After completing all the stations, each pair whiteboarded two of the stations.  The ensuing discuss was eventful.  We got into some very specific details about energy and energy transfers.  I can see how this particular portion of the unit can be very different if you are a biology first course or a physics first sequence.  This would be further compounded if the PCB sequence was also a modeling school.  Eventually we settled on energy either being stored (chemical potential, gravitational potential, elastic potential or kinetic), or transfered (radiating, heating, working, or dissipated – heat, sound, sound).  I’m sure I’ll be leaving it much simpler than this with my students, probably just referring to stored or transfered energy.  I do think the idea of dissipation is important because of the inefficient energy transfer between trophic levels.  I’d like my students to get away from saying that ~10% energy is “lost” between trophic levels and instead talk about that energy being transfered to the environment.  The homework for the day with kids would be for them to storyboard one of the experiments  for beginning-middle-end of the activity discussing how energy is stored and transfered.

Next we did a simulation called A Vital Commodity.  In this activity, we took different roles  in an aquatic ecosystem; plankton, shrimp, cod, and dolphin.  In this activity, we used beans to represent energy.  This energy was transfered between organisms through either feeding or interactions.  In a feeding, the prey would give the predator 5 beans and both organisms would add 2 beans to the environment.  Plankton would interact with the energy source to get 10 beans for each interaction.  We progressed with multiple interactions, although you had to interact with everyone before repeating an interaction.  Eventually time was called, slightly late, as two shrimp died.  We totaled up the energy of each organism. Next we whiteboarded the results of the experiment in words, visual, and graphic forms.

The model deployment tool here is Exercise 1 – Energy.  I was not a big fan of the exercise as written.  It would definitely be too complicated for my kids.  I’ll be modifying it in some fairly substantial ways before using it in class.

The rest of the day was “hand waving” as Angela would say.  We quickly discussed introducing the idea of macromolecules through food labels.  This is exactly how I introduce it with my kids.  The homework would be a macromolecule research project.  Assign each kid a group (carbohydrate, lipid, protein) and they need to identify one example from the group, describe the job/function of the molecule and identify the smaller parts that are combined to make the macromolecule.  I think this is a fantastic idea.  It will definitely make this information more student centered.  I dread this portion of the lecture each year, so I’ll be excited to try this out in the fall.

In the modeling curriculum we would next take a trip through comparative anatomy through an earthworm, grasshopper, frog and fetal pig dissections.  Only two of our ten teachers would be presenting this in class, so we skipped it.  We’ll also skip the comparison to plants later on.

A couple thoughts from the day:

Some of the participants mentioned that the evolution unit was difficult for them to follow because they needed more structure.  This brought up a discussion about the interactive science notebooks.  I gleamed a couple great ideas for unit organization:

  1. Reserve the 1st left hand page for the Ahh… Page
  2. Reserve the next left hand page for a vocabulary page, all the definitions go here and are modified as necessary through the unit
  3. Reserve the next left hand page (3rd of the unit) for a model representation page.

I think these additions will help keep my students organized.  I’ve been thinking about the interactive science notebooks for a year or two now.  I’m really liking how it is working in this course.

About ryanwoodside

I help students learn science. I teach at Windham High School in Maine.
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